In its purest form, paid advertising is the option for a brand to outbid other brands to appear at the top of the paid section of a search engine results page (SERP) for a predetermined set of keywords or phrases.
AdWords was the original name of Google’s paid ads product which later morphed into its new name, Google Ads. PPC (pay-per-click) and paid ads offer to buy clicks/traffic to a website from Google, its runner-up search engines like Bing and Yahoo, plus the newer kids on the block, like DuckDuckGo and Baidu. It also covers paid social media ads (more on that later).
PPC is great for businesses of any size and are easy to optimise. It allows marketers to reach target audiences more efficiently and increase website traffic much quicker than organic searches.
Paid ads are very easy to manage and track. You’re charged only whenever someone clicks on the ad, so you don’t waste much of your marketing budget. You can set a limit for daily or monthly clicks to make sure your ad won’t be displayed once it’s maxed out. However, the more popular a keyword is, the higher your budget needs to be to bid against your competitors. But overall, PPC is a great tool for maximising sales or brand awareness through effective targeting.
What’s the difference between different search engines?
Before setting up PPC, it’s also important to understand the main SERPs out there and how they differ. Google is by far the most popular search engine in the world, racking up over 88% market share (a remarkable 95% on tablet and mobile!). It’s no wonder that the brand has become synonymous with search and ‘Google it’ has become such a common phrase!
But it may be time for Google to start looking over their shoulder, as Bing has firm plans to steal some of their thunder. Bing has been the default search engine on Microsoft Windows for some time. However, with Microsoft partnering up with Amazon on AI and voice assistant, it remains to be seen what impact this will have on both Bing and Google. After all, when Amazon sets its sights on cornering the market, they usually do.
That’s not to say anyone should disregard Yahoo, who now power their search results through Google and Bing while holding a prominent position as popular email providers in the US. It is still the go-to option for a large number of searchers who remember when Yahoo and AOL were duking it out for search supremacy before Google was even a thing.
Looking east, Yandex dominates Russia with about 60% market share over Google. It’s a slightly different system, designed for searches in Russian and it’s focused on desktop use more than mobile to accommodate Russian searchers. Similar to Google, Yandex offers other services like Music, voice assistant Alice and cloud storage.
Baidu has become the most popular search engine in China since launching in 2000. Given the sheer size of the market, they serve billions of searches every quarter and are currently ranked second overall in search engine land.
Is there room for new search engines?
DuckDuckGo certainly thinks so, and since 2008 have positioned themselves as the ‘anti-Google’ by prioritising the searcher's privacy, not profiling users and showing everyone the very same results for the same search terms. As their website states: ‘You deserve privacy. Companies are making money off your private information online without your consent. At DuckDuckGo, we don’t think the internet should feel so creepy and getting the privacy you deserve online should be as simple as closing the blinds.’ They may have struck a chord with the public too because they have received $1.3m in private donations to date.
No matter what search engine users prefer, they all have unique algorithms, and advertisers need to be savvy to the subtle differences in how to structure paid ads to dominate the top position for each. It’s worth testing a few to see which work best. In addition, your landing page also needs to offer valuable content to retain the potential customer and subtly guide them to convert, as this is where you’ll see your main ROI.
If you’d like to discuss paid ads and conversion rate optimisation in more detail, we’d love to hear from you! We work with certified paid ad specialists that know how to put best practices in place for best results.